Ph.D. Student Heads Home to Guatamala To Study Maya Civilization

Mapping and excavating Maya ruins this summer not only fulfilled a lifelong dream for Rodrigo Guzman, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology, but connected him with his roots.

Guzman spent the month of July excavating an ancient site in northeast Guatemala called Holtun. Working in conjunction with the Anthropology Department, Guzman uncovered 32 previously undiscovered groups of mounds.

“To find that many artifacts is something incredible to me,” Guzman said.

Most of Guzman’s time this summer was spent getting permission from the Ministry of Culture to study the site in Holtun. Only then could Guzman explore the site.

“It is important to do things the right way in another country,” said Guzman. “The community we deal with in Guatemala sees UCF in such a splendid light because of what we are doing for their people, their history and the respectful way we go about it.”

This was not Guzman’s first time performing research in his home country. He did his first excavation in 2005 and has returned to Guatemala annually since then.

“This is the first time I ran a project by myself, so I felt like I had a huge responsibility on my hands,” Guzman said. “First, I have this responsibility to show to the world how the ancient Maya lived, from my perspective. Second, I needed to prove to the local villages and my country that our heritage is important and worth conserving.”

The most important moment for Guzman during his recent return is when the personnel and local authorities began taking his research personally.

“The personnel that I hired to help me with the surveying are from a village located at the same site,” said Guzman. “They understood that the ancient Maya used the same water sources the same way as they do. We all together understood how the ancient Maya could’ve suffered from water scarcity because currently, the people in this village are suffering from a drought cycle.”

Guzman and his team have recently returned home, but their project is far from over. The next step in their study is to pay close attention to water supplies and sources within Holtun. This is crucial in understanding the Maya history and how they supported their society.

“I think that one of the best parts about this project,” said Guzman, “is that I get to see people from my own country [Guatemala] benefit from what UCF is doing. We are giving them answers to their history and ancestry, things that they never knew before. They teach us and in turn, we are teaching them.”



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